Newcomer P.J. Tucker excited to help Raptors in final push toward playoffs

Tucker a long way from "snotty-nosed kid"

TORONTO — P.J. Tucker let out a loud laugh when asked how much he’s changed since his first stint with the Toronto Raptors, back in 2006.

“Snotty-nosed kid,” Tucker said. “I remember those days coming here, not knowing nothing about the league. . . a long way, let’s just say that. I’m a long way from there. It’s been 11 years.”

The Raptors originally drafted Tucker in the second round in 2006, but he played just 17 games for Toronto before being waived. He spent the next five seasons in Europe before catching on with the Phoenix Suns where he garnered a reputation for being a tough, physical opponent to face.

The 31-year-old Tucker, who became the Raptors’ oldest player, met with the media Friday, a day after he was acquired from Phoenix at Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. 

Raptors president Masai Ujiri said he wanted Tucker for his toughness.

“I think your toughness is your character, it’s what you bring,” Tucker said. “It’s energy. It’s more than just going and hitting people. Toughness is a mental something . . . it’s something you are born with and you gotta hone it and try to figure out a way to make it work for your team.”

Tucker and Serge Ibaka, acquired a week earlier in the deal that sent Terrence Ross to Orlando, were slated to make their Raptors debut on Friday when Toronto hosted the Boston Celtics.

Tucker, who is averaging 7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds a night this season, figured he was staying put in Phoenix when he looked at his watch right around when the trade deadline passed at 1 p.m. MT.  

“It was pretty crazy,” Tucker said. “(I thought) ‘nothing’s happening,’ so I had a shower. Then all my team came in the shower, ‘You’re going home!’ and I said ‘Raleigh?’ They was ‘Naw, your old team.'”

Kyle Lowry teased him about being the team’s oldest player.

“That’s crazy,” Tucker said. “I thought he was playing. I went home and looked. I mean you gotta be joking.”

Tucker said he already knows DeMar DeRozan and DeMarre Carroll well.

“The crazy thing, people always used to ask me who are three toughest players that guard me the best? I always put P.J. in there first,” DeRozan said. “It was funny when I saw the trade yesterday, (I thought) I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that.

“It’s hard to find tough guys like P.J. in the league these days, to have him on our team and the things he’s able to do definitely improves us.”

While Tucker didn’t land in Toronto until close to 9:30 Friday morning due to a flight delay, he wasn’t worried about picking up the Raptors’ plays.

“I’m already comfortable right now,” he said. “It doesn’t take me long. I get in there and mix it up, talk to guys and get on the same page and then on the court it just comes together. It’s not something you talk about it’s just something you do.”

He’s keen to help the Raptors in their final push toward the playoffs. 

“It’s already a great team with great personnel. The guys play well together, they mesh well,” Tucker said. “I’m just looking to add whatever they need â€” different nights, different stories, different teams â€” there’s going to be different things we need to win games and I’m that guy, a utility guy who comes in and does whatever you need to get a win that night and then get ready for the next one.

“I think 25 games left and being right in the thick of things, being able to make a push to get even higher and get home court advantage.”

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press